Food Sovereignty as a Decolonial Practice: The Case of UAWC
The importance of food production in the struggle against the coloniser–both to facilitate simple survival on the land, and as a cultural fact–has been recognized in anticolonial discourse today. As a consequence, in traditional territories across the globe, cultural, governance, health-related and environmental initiatives are in efforts to resurrect traditional foods and food systems and rekindle indigenous economies by achieving “food sovereignty” (Grey & Patel, 2014, p. 439). “Food sovereignty” is a form of self-determination in the face of oppression, informed by an ideal of a democratised food system that thrives outside of the economy of the oppressor (Grey & Patel, 2014, p. 441). Grey and Patel (2016) argue that food sovereignty, as a day-to-day practice rather than an end, is then essentially a decolonial practice (p. 441).
Whilst Palestinian Ministry of Agriculture has, in the same vein, stated that “the agriculture sector is a principal vehicle for state-building and facilitating and end to occupation”, this emphasis on food production has not been matched by its actions (Abu Awwad, 2016, p. 244). As such, the efforts to establish food sovereignty have principally been located at a grassroots level in Palestine. For example, whilst the Zionist project has posed a significant challenge to their efforts, the grassroots Union of Agricultural Workers Committee (UAWC) has dedicated itself to empowering and protecting small-scale farmers on occupied territories, whose land, water and energy has become a target for confiscation or outright destruction (Rothchild, 2017, §3). Additionally, the UAWC has set up a local seed bank in Hebron not only to increase food access, which is especially important in the light of the vast food insecurity in the region, but presumably also to preserve indigenous and culturally important species, of which the importance can be illustrated by the olive tree (Rothchild, 2017, §4). In the face of failed top-down solutions, such organisations provide hope to establish material security and cultural continuity in Palestine in the domain of food, hereby resisting the erasure settlement requires.